Lifestyle

The elephant in the foyer

By Riverine Herald

THE ‘elephant in the room’ is now in the foyer of Moama Bowling Club to continue raising awareness of domestic violence issues.

Victims of domestic violence are often overcome with feelings of shame, fear and intimidation and too often the last thing they want to do is talk about the horror of what they are enduring.

But getting the abused to open up about the ‘elephant in the room’ is exactly what Echuca and Moama police are hoping for through this creative initiative known by the same name.

MBC sales and marketing manager George Santos said the club was determined to be part of this “vital and valuable” campaign and has approached the organisers about ‘hosting’ the elephant at the first available opportunity.

“This colourful fibreglass elephant, developed in Wodonga by Gateway Health as a response to hidden or shameful issues of family violence, has been ‘on station’ at Echuca police station and has now come over to us,” George said.

“The aim, according to Echuca family violence court liaison Leading Senior Constable Rhonda Ford, is to encourage people to talk about the scourge of family violence, which was often hidden or difficult to talk about,” he said.

“As a community club we see we have an important role to play in helping get that message across.

“It is so important we all continue the conversation about family violence to reinforce that abuse of any kind is not acceptable.”

On average, police attend about 15 domestic violence incidents a week across Campaspe Shire.

A number of these result in intervention orders at court.

“We encourage everyone coming into the club to stop and read the message with the elephant, and engage in some of its social media suggestions,” George added.

“You certainly won’t have any trouble spotting it.”

Leading Snr Constable Ford said the other part of the message was to “reinforce that there is help and support for those victims because, often, they do not even realise that what they are enduring is family violence”.

“They think the daily verbal abuse, controlling behaviours and intimidation is just a normal part of a relationship. The message needs to be constantly reinforced this is not appropriate or acceptable behaviour,” she said.

“We hope the elephant will make people think about the issues associated with family violence and encourage them to seek help if they need it.”

The Elephant in the Room was a project originally developed by a group of women survivors of family violence.

One side of the elephant features images that speak to the damage caused by family violence, while the other side highlights the strength found by women recovering from domestic abuse.

“The plan is for the elephant and associated signage to be displayed at various public locations and police stations around the region for the next few months,” Leading Snr Constable Ford said.

If you or someone you know is impacted by sexual assault or domestic violence, call 1800RESPECT on 1800737732 or visit 1800RESPECT.org.au